Last week, the fixtures for the African Women’s Nations Cup were released by CAF and Nigeria will be meeting Ghana in the very first round.
This fixture is one of 22 ties that saw the 44 teams seeded based on geographical, rather than a ranking system, taking into account past results, the latest FIFA rankings or even a mixture of the two. Nigeria is currently the top-ranked team in Africa according to FIFA with Ghana at number four.
The 22 aggregate winners progress to the second round that will decide the 11 nations joining hosts Morocco at next year’s finals. We are aware the 2022 tournament will be the first to feature 12 nations after the cancellation of the 2020 edition due to the COVID- 19 pandemic.
Nigeria and Ghana are heavyweights in women’s football and having them meet in the first round means one of the continent’s best will be missing at the next AWCON. We believe this is very absurd and the new CAF leadership under Patrice Motsepe of South Africa will have to address this issue capable of causing disaffection in Africa.
Of what use will it be for Africa if either Nigeria or Ghana fail to make the cut while countries like Uganda, Tanzania or Ethiopia will make it and eventually reduce the standard of the competition on the continent. If any of these teams qualify based on the current geographical arrangement, some of them could be beaten by 8 or 10- goal margins at the Women’s World Cup proper.
In future competitions, things have to change because it means Ghana, Nigeria, and Cote d’Ivoire cannot represent the continent at the same event. The continent should revert to the open draw format with the top teams given bye such that ultimately the best should pull through no matter the geographical region they come from.
We make bold to say football is a beautiful game and we should not allow the politics and administrative issues to hinder its progress in any way. Nigerian officials who were part of the new format, which led to this arrangement, should learn how to play better politics that will be of advantage and not otherwise.
Undoubtedly, the politics of football in Africa is just like the dayto- day politics of other spheres of life. Football politics is even worse as a few cliques could determine what happens in the entire continent to boost their selfish interests.
Simply put, football politics is like the same politics and rivalry that exists between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Top shots in football at all levels tinker with crunch decisions based on their influence in CAF.
In recent times, Nigerian teams have been struggling to earn tickets for global events as CAF has now turned the qualifiers into a regional matter.
The country’s U-20 team, under the tutelage of coach Ladan Bosso, was grouped in WAFU Zone B of the African qualifiers for the Nations Cup at that cadre and the FIFA World Cup. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire were the opponents of the Flying Eagles with only one team emerging.
Ultimately, due to the pedigree of the other teams involved, the Flying Eagles failed to secure the lone qualification ticket.
Few weeks after this setback, the U-17 team also filed out against Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, and after some indifferent results, the team then had to rely on a favourable result between the others in the group to pick a ticket for the AFCON. As fate would have it,
FIFA cancelled the U-17 and U-20 World Cups and so the impact of the CAF pairings did not manifest to fans of the game at the global level. However, investigations revealed that politics in CAF during the Ahmad Ahmad regime informed the current regional style of qualification series.
It was decided that teams and other zones on the continent might never get a chance of playing on the global stage if the open draw format prevailed and so the regional option was adopted. Presently most of the strong footballing nations come from the western and northern parts of the continent, while those from the East and South are largely weaker.
It is thus no fault of theirs that some of Africa’s strongest teams, Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, all compete in the same WAFU B zone. For example, Nigeria and Ghana have rich pedigree in continental and global age-grade football but these countries are now competing in the first round of the African qualifiers.
This is a big setback because at least one of the continent’s big hitters will be eliminated at the first stage while a weak team will pull through from the eastern or southern part of the continent.
The best teams on the continent should represent Africa at every global event no matter the geographical position of the teams.
Ghana and Nigeria are the best teams on the continent but unfortunately one of them will not be at the African Women’s Nations Cup which is a big setback. This anomaly will have to be addressed by the new leadership in CAF as soon as possible if the gains made by the continent in global football are not to suffer a reversal